On Sept. 12, 1980, a chartered commuter plane on a gambling junket from West Palm Beach to Freeport, Grand Bahama, crashed into the ocean, killing all 34 aboard in the worst air disaster on a flight into or out of Palm Beach International Airport.
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Four uniformed Wackenhut employees screened Christmas travelers at Palm Beach International Airport, sifting through bags by hand and unwrapping Christmas gifts. Note the sign advertising $39 flights to Atlanta.
To read the Dec. 26, 1972, Palm Beach Post story below, click on the download, print or fullscreen links, or use the controls at the bottom of the page to zoom in for a better view.
On Dec. 19, 1936, the new West Palm Beach airport — “one of the best in the entire south” — was dedicated. The airport was named Morrison Field in honor of Grace K. Morrison, a licensed pilot and solo flier who was Palm Beach architect Maurice Fatio’s secretary.
For the last three weeks, we’ve revisited Morrison Field, now Palm Beach International Airport, while it was a World War II Army base. Our time machine: a dozen weekly base news magazines loaned to us by retired Lantana teacher Ed Sheedy.
On page 7 of the Oct. 4, 1941 edition: a feature on “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy Morton Savar.”
The story said the red-haired kid was the most unpopular guy on base, because it was he who roused everyone each morning.
“It’s just another job, like muck detail, or KP,” he told the reporter. But during taps, he said, “the temptation to jive is almost unbearable sometimes.”
The 1941 story gave Morton, now 90, a laugh when we tracked him down in Mt. Laurel, N.J..
“A year later, the same guy’s now the most popular because he’s the photographer,” he recalled in August.
Morton would avoid combat the entire war and return to the Philadelphia area, where he spent decades as an event photographer, retiring around 1990; “I was too old to chase the Bar Mitzvah boys and the brides.”
He’s married 60-plus years with three kids and three grandkids.
The youngster had enlisted May 27, 1941, his 21st birthday.
As Morrison’s bugler for six months, he was no novice; as a teen he’d played with a 6-piece band that worked Philly hotels.
After Pearl Harbor, his bugle was replaced by a public address system and he was assigned as an official base photographer, a job he held at Morrison for four years.
“They came to Morrison Field to get all fitted out with the shots, clothing and orientation. It was a very busy airport.”
Late in the war, Savar was shipped to the South Pacific, again as an official photographer.
He said he got a shot of a Japanese envoy leaving Manila for Tokyo Harbor to take part in the surrender aboard the Missouri.
Thanks to Ed Sheedy, both Morton and you now can read every page of the dozen 1941 Morrison Field news magazines here on www.HistoricPalmBeach.com.
This is the third of four columns visiting the 1941 weekly news magazines of Morrison Field, now Palm Beach International Airport. You can read every page on HistoricPalmBeach.com.
These snippets are from just before Pearl Harbor and just after. Watch the tone make a dramatic change.
Nov. 15: “There’s gold in them thar hills,” was the cry of the men and women of ‘49, and the same cry will be heard on this base next Saturday night when Morrison field officers drop their 1941 garb, let down their hair, and throw formality to the winds in a shootin’, rootin’, tootin’, gun toting Forty-Niner party at the Officers’ Club.
Nov. 29: Commissary Will Provide Staple Groceries at Low Prices. Housed in modern shelves and maintained by modern business methods the $15,000 stock will be composed of items on housewives’ and soldiers’ shopping lists from ammonia to yeast.
Dec. 6: The Protestant enlisted men’s choir will make its public debut tomorrow at the inter-faith service in the chapel at 9:30 o’clock. (“Tomorrow:” Dec. 7.)
Dec. 13: The first radio bulletins on the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which reached this section soon after the noon hour Sunday, catapulted base authorities into action. All personnel were restricted to the base, and an order was issued to keep civilians out. We are no longer merely selectees and enlisted men spending a required training period on a military reservation. The novelty, if there ever was one, is over and finished. We are now a part of a nation which has sprung to life in defense of its material and spiritual possessions. A nation which is girding itself for the most tremendous war effort in all its history. We must act accordingly.
Dec. 20: Midnight Mass, a traditional Christmas service in the Catholic Church since its early days, will be celebrated in the Morrison Field Chapel Wednesday midnight, according to a statement released yesterday by Chaplain Edward J. Burns. Plans for this mass had been abandoned since so many of the men of the Base were scheduled to leave on Christmas furloughs; however, since the start of hostilities canceled these leaves Chaplain Burns has now completed arrangements for the impressive and beautiful ceremony.
Next week: The boogie-woogie bugle boy.